Friday, 6 January 2012

Three Quebec-Brewed Belgian Reviews: La Terrible, Dominus Vobiscum Double & Chambly Noire


Since I seem to be drinking more beer than I find time to write about, three brief(-ish) reviews follow.  What binds these beers together for this review is both that they are all Quebec-brewed versions of popular Belgian (Trappist/Abbay) styles and that I have drank them all within the past few days!

Unibroue's La Terrible, a bottle conditioned Dark Belgian Strong Style Ale which checks in at 10.5%, is a very good representative of the style from outside the Abbays, but, in my opinion, falls a bit short of the original Belgian products it draws its inspiration from.  The beer itself is dark brown in color with a quickly receding off-white to beige head that leaves a very smooth lace.  Aromas of figs, plums, port, and alcohol meet the nose.  As with the aroma, the flavor is equally sweet and malty, but also includes hints of cherries, plums, and yeasty spices that are much less present on the nose.  Full bodied, yet simultaneously creamy and warming in a lingering/fairly drying finish a bit like a nice dry wine.  It is perhaps drier than typical of the style, which is again subject to personal preference.  Grade: B+

I have heard much of the greatness of the Dominus Vobiscum Belgian-style beers brewed by Microbrasserie Charlevoix, but had yet to try one.  Their Dominus Vobiscum Double is the first of their beers for me to taste (since my preference for Dubbels always makes me try them first) and, judging by this product, these beers are almost of Trappist quality such that I anxiously await trying more!  This beer pours a beautiful ruby red in colour, with a decent tan-colored head and a good amount of lace.  Aromas are primarily of dark fruits, plums, figs, raisins and anise, and the yeasts are much less prevalent than in some Belgian style beers masked by the extreme malty primacy - which could be seen as a detraction from the style accuracy, but to me is appealing since it maximizes the fruity aromas.  Tastewise, this beer continues this malty sweetness, but the alcoholic warmth and slight dryness prevents it from being cloying.  Hints of brown sugar go along with the dark fruit and licorice.  On the tongue, this fairly full-bodied beer is a bit syrupy, yet smooth and just warming enough so as to invite further sips/swigs.  A very, very good beer! The praise is well-deserved!  Grade: A-

Returning to Unibroue, I was slightly disappointed by their Chambly Noire, which has an ABV of 6.2%.  It offers a very slight off-white head with negligible lacing and a very dark brown body. Aromas are yeasty and malty, but not particularly sweet, more bitter, spicy, and alcoholic.  On the nose, this beer is also somewhat sour, with notes of sour plums.  For its purported style, the taste is not very complex.  In fact, I was quite disappointed.  It basically offers a yeasty spiciness with a slight hint of sour fruit, but little of complex excellence and much less malty fruitiness than one would expect of the style.  Moreover, the slight sourness (in both aroma and flavour) are not indicative of the style (making me slightly wonder if I'd received a bad bottle).  Low carbonation for the style as well as a thinner body than I was anticipating are further examples of this ill-fit, in my assessment.  Not bad, per se, but far less enjoyable than I'd imagined and not very representative of the style parameters.  Grade: C+

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